Jenny\'s Southeast Asia/China Adventure

Travel time: February - June 2004  |  by Jenny Chu

Laos: Vientiane

Tuesday, 3/9/04
Day 35, Shaken Up

Recovered from my cold, I headed on the bus down to the capital of Laos today at noon. This time I took a local bus for ($1). While crowded and uncomfortable, the local bus definitely offered a more interesting ride as compared to the mostly tourist VIP one that I previously took. This journey was much more flat, so no baggies were brought out today.

I got into Vientiane around 4pm and arbitrarily chose a guesthouse out of my guidebook. When I got there, I didn't think the room was too clean, so the nice tuk tuk driver brought me to another guesthouse nearby (Sihom Guest House). After putting my stuff down, I locked my room to go to the outside bathroom to wash my face. When I got back, I opened the door and saw a man standing in my room! " Fix your fan" he said, then quicky left the room. Um okay, when I left my fan was working fine. Then I saw my wallet on my bed, and before I had time to process anything I heard a knock on my door. The same guy came in and started apologizing, "Sorry , Sorry" as he handed me back 20,000 kip ($2). He told me he was hungry, so he took some money. He left and I stood there shocked. I counted my money and sure enough he really did only take two bucks. But, even tho he returned it, I felt like he had violated my personal safety. So, shaken up and teary-eyed, I ran to the front lobby and told them what happened. The front-desk man just motioned me to keep silent and not to say anything until the manager arrived. Then, I really burst out crying and went outside to calm down. A Canadian woman came out to comfort me, which helped a little to know that there are caring people around when you need them.

When the manager finally arrived, he had me tell him what happened with the guy sitting together with us in the same room. It was awkward to say the least. I didn't want to press charges and I also started to feel a little guilty that the guy, who turned out to be the guesthouse's cleaner - ended up getting fired simply because he was hungry. But, at the same time it wasn't right for him to break into my room either. The manager asked if I wanted to stay in the guesthouse for free, but there was no way I was going to stay there. He brought me to Sousaly, which was much more expensive ($8). But seeing that it was a popular backpacker joint, I felt safer in my new environment. The manager then asked me if I wanted to get dinner with him. Hello... I just got robbed at your guesthouse, NO THANKS. I got dinner by myself instead, at a so-so Indian eatery across the street and came back for an early night in.

Wednesday, 3/10/04
Day 36, Feeling Whole Again

For being Laos' capital, Vientiane in my opinion, doesn't have too much to offer. It's run down buildings lacked charm, the traffic was smog-polluting, and it was hotter than hot in this city with no atmosphere. Yet, feeling obliged to still explore, I set out to see a few sights. First, I wandered around and inquired about getting my visa for Cambodia. I figured out that there was an embassy in Vientiane since visas can get processed in one day. While the travel agent said it would be harder to get one by myself, I hopped on a tuk-tuk for the embassy anyway. Filling out the application was easy, and for $25 bucks I would get my visa the same day. The travel agencies wanted to charge $40, so I was feeling quite accomplished for doing it on my own.

I then caught another tuk-tuk to get me to the "Morning" market (which, btw had also been warned as a tourist-no-no by the U.S. government due to a string of bombingsin 2001) to do a bit of shopping. The market was huge and while it sold a large assortment of goods, it was no where as special as the one in Luang Prabang. I got tired of shopping quickly and started walking until I found myself at the Anousavari Monument (commemorating the lives of fallen soldiers), Vientiane's very own replica of the Arc de Triumph. I went up to the top, buying a few Lao t-shirts along the way. The view was okay. I didn't stay long.

View of Vientiane from the Anouvsavari Monument.

View of Vientiane from the Anouvsavari Monument.

Afterwards, I walked in the blaring sun back to go to the tourist office to get some information about the 4,000 Islands, my next destination in Laos. Waiting for the office to reopen from the lunch break, was two Dutch girls, Kristel and Lein, whom I striked up a conversation with. They were also going to take the night bus to Pakse en route to the 4,000 islands tomorrow. I think I must have had, " Hi, I'm desperate for company" written all over my face because Lein, first invited me to join them and some others at a bar that night, and then a few minutes later also invited me to join them in some sight-seeing. After the robbery shake-up, I was glad to have the company of two nice females.

Together, we went to see the Golden Stupa, Laos' trademark sight, and also got some lunch. We also discovered that our guesthouses's were right across the street from each other. It seems that it was sorta fate that I was to meet them. (If I hadn't gotten sick in Vang Vieng, I would have taken their same kayak trip down to Vientiane too). I then picked up my Cambodian visa, and met at the nearby beergarden at 8.

The beergarden was nice, and it was full of locals and tourists (a rarity in Laos). We had dinner outside and shared a jug of Lao-gria(lao fruit wine infused with fruit chunks). Our group kept growing larger, and when their two-british travel friends coincidently turned out to be the same ones that had gone tubing with me, it was a mini-reunion of sorts. I also ran into another tubing mate. It definitely felt great to be initiated back into the backpacker world.

Golden Stupa, Lao's trademark sight.

Golden Stupa, Lao's trademark sight.

Thursday, 3/11/04
Day 37, Day of Relaxation

Started my day with some internet and a bagel with cream cheese, a favorite from back home. Last night, I had read in the LP about an outdoor sauna/massage place nearby, so that was where I was headed this afternoon. Yes, in case you haven't noticed, I have decided in addition to being a multi-cultural food connoisseur of sorts, I would also critique massages in the different countries I visited.

I bargained for a tuk-tuk (.80)to bring me to
Wat Sok Pa Luang, surrounded by a small forest. The grounds was dotted with flowers and greenery, a nice change from the indoor massages I was used to.

I quickly changed into my pretty sarong and waited my turn for the 40 minute massage. Soon a Laotian girl, still in her school uniform was pressing my pressure points and cracking my back. It was more hard-core than a Thai massage and some of her techniques resembled chiropractic ones. Needless to say, I liked it. However, needless to say, 40 minutes was not enough-knots in my shoulders still. So, after going in and out of the co-ed herbal sauna, and drinking some complimentary tea and pineapple shake, I went for another 40 minute massage session (with a different woman). Finally, 80 minutes of massage and 30 minutes of sweating in the herbal sauna later, I was feeling oh-so relaxed for $5 bucks.

Back in town, I met up with Lein and Kristal and Urvin and Flo (two german boys) for our overnight bus ride to Pakse. For $14 dollars, we rode in the VIP of VIP buses-with our own bus attendant handing out snacks, water and a simple dinner- until we arrived in Pakse at 6am. Somehow, I managed to get in a few hours of zzzzzzzzzzzzs in my reclining bus seat.

© Jenny Chu, 2004
You are here : Overview Asia Laos Vientiane
The trip
Follow my travels through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China..........
Start of journey: Feb 02, 2004
Duration: 4 months
End of journey: Jun 02, 2004
Travelled countries: Asia
The Author
Jenny Chu is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 20 years.
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